Aircraft

Rolls-Royce announces plans for 250-mph hybrid VTOL air transporter

Rolls-Royce announces plans fo...
Rolls-Royce, famous for its aerospace engines, is getting on board with electric propulsion with this hybrid VTOL concept
Rolls-Royce, famous for its aerospace engines, is getting on board with electric propulsion with this hybrid VTOL concept
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Rolls-Royce, famous for its aerospace engines, is getting on board with electric propulsion with this hybrid VTOL concept
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Rolls-Royce, famous for its aerospace engines, is getting on board with electric propulsion with this hybrid VTOL concept

As successful as the Rolls-Royce name has been in luxury cars, it's been far bigger in aeronautics. The two are very separate companies at this point – the car company employs some 1,300 people, but it's absolutely dwarfed by the aircraft motor business, which employs around 50,000. So when these guys announce a four- to five-passenger hybrid electric/turbine VTOL aircraft concept with a 250-mph top speed and a 500-mile range, it's worth listening.

Presented at this year's Farnborough International Airshow, the EVTOL concept uses six electric rotors for vertical takeoff and landing, giving it access to helipads and other small landing zones. The props are designed to minimize noise, allowing it to operate over cities without as much disruption as a helicopter.

Once aloft and moving forward, the main wing and tail fins tilt fully forward, enabling high-efficiency winged flight and a top speed around 250 mph (402 km/h). The props on the main wing fold away during winged flight, further reducing drag and increasing the efficiency of the design in the air.

Rather than a massive battery, the EVTOL uses a smaller one, which would be charged by an efficient gas turbine generator to enable a huge 500-mile (805-km) range, far further than fully electric tilt-wing designs can manage at this point.

Rolls-Royce says this machine could be in production as soon as "the early to mid 2020s, provided that a viable commercial model for its introduction can be created."

While this concept uses an M250 gas turbine and leverages the company's rich history of aircraft engine design, it's clear that Rolls-Royce sees a fully electric powertrain taking over somewhere in the future.

Tilt-wing electric-propulsion VTOL aircraft are popping up all over the place at the moment, so there's nothing particularly new or radical about this design, except the long-range hybrid powertrain and the fact that, rather than a Silicon Valley startup, it's being pushed by an established aerospace company that does US$21.5 billion dollars worth of business a year instead of. One to keep an eye on.

Source: Rolls-Royce

8 comments
christopher
It's missing any way to see down properly, including no way to see where you're going to land... needs windows in the front floor for example.
MD
Wrap around doors / windows appear to give downward visibility. In reality this craft is merely the outcome of a logical engineering study, rather than the often observed study in hype and wishful thinking.... BTW, we are not any closer to the ubiquitous "flying car" because; cars aren't meant to fly, and aircraft can't survive a fenderbender unscathed, mutially exclusive operating conditions (the closest we come with successful designs are flying boats (floating airplanes) and these too aren't built to survive a crash while waterborne.....
Towerman
Woo hooo ! Nice :D
Towerman
@Christopher Side windows look sufficient to see how close to the ground below you are for landing, i do agree that forward vision can be improved by adding a front window yes. but regardless, with those tweaks this looks like a winner with full tilt on the wings. For a long term commercial goal/view They would have to make it at least a 2 seater though, they have to make versions that can be used as taxi's to make this become mainstream on a worldwide scale, as many or most people (not myself i'd love to fly it) but the majority of average citizens out there would want someone to transport them in these vtol's not fly themselves.
Daishi
Rolls Royce is a large well respected company in this space but large companies have lots of different teams with different perspectives. Even if they had a fully functioning version of this to production specs the certification, FAA regulation, training, and safety testing to bring a brand new category of aircraft to market would probably take longer than mid 2020. These are already 5-10 years in development and only a couple teams have even successfully gotten one off the ground with a human in it under very limited circumstances. Making the claim that they can have one with a 250 MPH top speed and 500 mile range in production in mid 2020 is just a completely baseless claim dependent upon a massive breakthrough in battery technology which even Rolls Royce isn't really qualified to make. Batteries don't come close to the energy density of petroleum based fuel and many helicopters don't have a 250 MPH top speed or 500 mile range. I'm sure they have motivations for making these claims and I don't know what they are but even though it's not my field I don't think they are realistic. There are probably lots of people at Rolls Royce who do work in that field that agree.
Towerman
@daishi Of course 500miles is viable, they are using a turbine to extend the flight. This is not a helicopter, that's why it can go faster. Yes it will take some time to get regulations in place however these concepts and the technology is really growing at a rapid pace to the point where they simply will have no choice but to speed up the regulations to cater for this revolution about to take place.
Daishi
@Towerman OK, I misunderstood. I assumed the gas turbine version was just going to be the proof of concept with later versions being electric. But yeah they are using a gas turbine generator rather than relying on battery technology to reach 500 miles which makes more sense.
Towerman
Battery technology will only get better from here and at some stage the weight/endurance concern will be a thing of the past.